When The Last of Us was announced, I paid no attention to it. “Another zombie game is not what we need.” I thought to myself. There have been very few games centering on surviving a zombie apocalypse that have captured my attention. It wasn’t until a friend of mine told me that these “zombies” were different. He told me that these were the result of a certain plant which actually exists. My response was shaky and very fearful. “Not Cordyceps…?” I asked. “Yeah, that’s it!” he said.
Cordyceps, as I stated, is a very real fungus. While it doesn’t create rampaging zombies, its effects on insects are ghastly. An ant that has been infected by one of the many strains will appear normal at first. Its behavior will soon become erratic and if the rest of the hive catches on, the infected ant will be removed and placed in a deemed safe location. The fungus infecting the insect will eventually take over its brain and force it to climb to a higher elevation where tendrils will force themselves out of the now deceased ant’s head. These tendrils will then bare spores and release them where they have a chance to spread and take over another unsuspecting insect. Words cannot justly describe this almost alien process and may any deity help us if this thing evolves to infect humans! That’s where The Last of Us comes in.
The story picks up 20 years after a new strain of this fungus has decimated most of the human population. The two main characters, Joel and Ellie, must survive this new version of the world they once knew by combating fungi infected people. In a traditional zombie sense, the infected will act on basic instinct having lost all semblance of their humanity. Much like the ants this fungus infects in reality, the humans infected will start sporting mushroom like features. As grisly as it is, it’s pretty cool to see what an infectious strain of this fungus would do to human beings. I have to imagine though that in actuality, it would be a bit more on the debilitating and fatal side.
As gamers, we all know the market is saturated with sequel after sequel. If we want something different or outside the box, we’d normally have to look to the growing number of independent developers. If things continue down this path, this “sequelitis” as it’s being deemed may be coming to an end. Most recently we saw Dishonored revisit stealth gameplay but add Bioshock like powers. The Last of Us is taking the tried and true apocalypse scenario but putting a new spin on it via the Cordyceps fungus.
The current release is set for some time in 2013. While this is a vague release date and probably very far off, with a game shaping up as good as The Last of Us, I’d much rather Naughty Dog take their time than rush its development. If you weren’t looking forward to this title, I hope this look at this pseudo real threat has made you just as excited as me!